According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, in 2013 there were a total of 103,637 hit and run accidents in Arizona. Those involved and who fail to stop in a hit and run accidents not only face personal trauma, but they also may be legally liable under Arizona law. By understanding hit and run laws in Arizona, you can stay informed about the legal repercussions and consequences that may be involved.
What Does “Hit and Run” Mean?
To understand your obligations during a hit and run accident, it is necessary to know what characterizes this type of accident. A hit and run accident, also referred to “leaving the scene” or “failure to stop” is where a member of a collision drives away from the scene instead of following their legal duties ascribed to them as a driver and party to the collision.
Duties Involved Upon Being in an Accident
In Arizona, when you are involved in a car accident, you are legally bound by a number of duties under A.R.S. 28-663. Under this statute, a driver who is involved in an accident that results in injury or death of a person or damage to a vehicle that is driven or attended by the person shall:
- Provide their name and vehicle registration number of the driven vehicle
- Provide reasonable assistance to an individual injured in an accident, which includes first aid and aid for injuries
- Upon request, exhibit the driver’s license to the person struck, or the driver, or occupants of or person attending a vehicle collided with
Those who fail to abide by this section and where there was only injury to the vehicle usually face a Class 3 misdemeanor. This level of misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of $500 and up to 30 days in jail. For those involved in accidents that caused damaged to a vehicle, other requirements and consequences attach.
Damage to a Vehicle and Requirement to Stop or Return
If you were involved in a car accident that resulted in damage to another vehicle, you are bound by the requirements of A.R.S. 28-662. Under this statute, a driver is required to:
- Immediately stop at the scene or as close as possible and if one has left the scene, the individual shall immediately return
- Remain at the scene
- Stop at the scene without obstructing traffic
The consequences that attach to failure to fulfill any of the above duties depend upon whether the party in the hit vehicle suffered from either death/serious injury or non-life threatening injuries. If the accident involved non-life threatening injuries, the potential sentence is a Class 6 felony, which involved up to a year in prison and a fine.
On the other hand, under A.R.S. 28-661, if the accident results serious physical injury or death, the consequences are much more severe. When physical injury is involved, the defendant faces a Class 4 or Class 3 felony, which is punishable by a fine of $750 and anywhere from 9 months to 3 years in jail. In addition to a fine and jail time, the driver’s license is invoked for 3 to 5 years.
New Developments Hit and Run Laws in Arizona
Arizona law is constantly changing, including hit and run laws. Previous hit and run law indicated that prosecutors were unable to charge a suspected hit and run driver with driving under the influence if they lacked concrete evidence.
Under the new hit and run law, those who are involved in a hit and run accident can be sent for drug and alcohol screening. In order to send the individual for screening, there must be a strong reason to believe that the hit and run driver was impaired by alcohol or another substance at the time of the collision. The screening could lead to liability and substance abuse treatment ordered by the court.
In order to prove that a driver was impaired at the time of the collision, prosecutors were previously required to meet a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. This standard sets an especially high bar for the prosecution because it requires them to provide substantial evidence of impairment. Now, instead of meeting the high bar, prosecutors are required to prove that the driver was impaired through a “preponderance of the evidence.” This essentially means that the prosecution can introduce evidence such as alcohol in the vehicle or witness statements to prove impairment.
With this new law in place regarding hit and run accidents, it becomes even more imperative for accused individuals to seek out legal representation in order to protect their liberties and interests. A quality defense lawyer will be able to bring up potential defenses and attack the prosecution’s evidence.
Potential Hit and Run Defenses
During an accident, there are a number of reasons why an individual may fail to fulfill the above duties. For example, the most common and most likely defense is that there was a mistake of fact. The mistake of fact would be that the defendant was unaware that they were involved in a car accident.
Another common issue that arises is that the defendant was aware that they struck another vehicle, but they had a reason to believe that no damage occurred and therefore, there was no obligation to stop. In both instances, the success of the defense will rest upon the facts and whether the defendant acted as a “reasonable person” under the same circumstances.
Tyler Allen Law Firm
Being involved in hit and run accident in Arizona cannot only lead to criminal liability, but it can also have significant consequences upon your personal life and employment. If you have been involved in a hit and run or are being prosecuted, having a defense team that is fully versed in the law and applicable defenses can ensure that your interests are protected.
At Tyler Allen Law Firm, our dedicated professionals provide your case with the due care that it deserves and work to defended you in every way possible against criminal liability. Contact us today to consult with one of our professionals.